Charles Van Doren, Inspiration for ‘Quiz Show’ Movie, Dies at 93

Charles Van Doren, the inspiration for the 1994 film Quiz Show, died on Tuesday. He was 93. Van Doren confessed to Congress in 1959 that his 14-week winning streak on the popular NBC quiz show Twenty-One was a hoax. During his eloquent testimony, the Columbia University English instructor confessed to having been given the questions and answers in advance, as well as being told to act dramatically while deliberating over the inexplicably correct answers. “I would give almost anything I have to reverse the course of my life in the last three years,” he told Congress. “I cannot take back one word or action; the past does not change for anyone. But at least I can learn from the past.”

Other quiz show contestants also came forward to admit that the programs were fixed, but Van Doren received the most public interest because he came from a prominent literary family. He pleaded guilty to second-degree perjury for lying to a grand jury, and, after losing his Columbia position, became an editor and pseudonymous writer. “... The truth is always the best way, indeed it is the only way, to promote and protect faith,” Van Doren said. “And the truth is the only thing with which a man can live.”